Sunday, August 25, 2013

Happy Happy Happy Birthday!

Duck Dynasty Style!

I made this cake using fondant and sugar sheets made by Wilton.  I hand cut the designs and stuck them on!

I bought great printables from Printable Parites to Go

I found these fun masks from

We asked everyone to wear camo.

It was a happy happy happy birthday!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

5 Minute Guac

Here's a 5 minute guacamole that's perfect for a go-to snack.

You only need these ingredients:
2 haas avocados
1 can of rotel
juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp. of garlic salt

Now let me caution you-the number 1 way to make AWFUL guacamole is to use avocados that aren't ripe.  I've found that I can rarely buy avocados and use them the same day.  Make sure they are VERY tender to the touch.  Then take them home and put them in a brown paper bag for 24 hours (or more if necessary) to ripen them further.

Here's the 4 easy steps:
1.  Mash your avocados. 
 I like to use a good ole fashioned potato masher.  Mash them to the consistency that you prefer.  I like my guac just a little chunky but mostly creamy.

2.  Squeeze the half of a lime on the smashed avocados.

3.  Add 1/2 tsp. of garlic salt.

4.  Drain and add the can of Rotel and mix together.

That's it! Grab some chips and enjoy!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

My 3 MUST-TRY Pinterest Picks

I tried these 3 Pinterest recipes today-and you must too!  They are all fool-proof.

1.  Making a boxed cake mix taste like a bakery cake.  

I will forever use this recipe to make a boxed cake mix.  There was a big difference. It was moist and flavorful!  I could pass it off as a homemade cake (not that I would do that...)

2.  Marshmallow Buttercream Icing

I am NOT a fan of jarred frosting.  It's so sweet and fake.  This recipe took 5 minutes to make and it came out perfect!

3.  Flag Cake Tutorial

I followed this tutorial and had the exact promised results.  And surprisingly it was quite simple!  Definitely worth the extra time!

Happy Independence Day!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

How To Be Cable FREE {Without making your family hate you}

So apparently, cable is NOT a necessity.  Who knew?  According to an informal survey I conducted on Facebook, many people are living without cable.  I had no idea!

It's important that you know that I love me some t.v.  This wasn't just about my family breaking away.  It's started with me.  Secretly, I was thinking about ditching the cable long before I uttered the words to my family.  Once I decided (with my husband on board, of course) that we needed to be a cable free home, it was time to approach the troops.  Now, if you have littles, this probably will only be a husband-wife thing.  But my kids are 9 and 14, and much to my dismay they have opinions.  

So, here's how I did it and kept the peace:

1.  Talk it up for months.  
Yes, I said months.  It was kind of like a desensitizing tactic.  When I first mentioned it, they were all like, WHAT?? WHAT??? NO WAY!!  I would just leave it at that.  Then a day or so later I brought it up again and then, again and again.  Until eventually, they started to see that it was going to be a reality.

2.  Invest in a smart t.v.
This may not always be possible.  But we got a great deal on a smart t.v. at Sam's, kind of accidentally.  The smart t.v. enables us to get things like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon and it's already built in the t.v.    No extra equipment is necessary and our plan was to go cable free not t.v. free.  We also still have internet (isn't internet a necessity???) We also bought a $15 HD digital antenna from Walmart and we get 57 local channels for FREE.  (So what if 25 of them are in Spanish LOL).  Apple t.v. is also a great option if you don't have a smart t.v.

3.  Get your ducks in a row.
Know what services (like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon) will work with your t.v. set up and your budget.  Try out the free trials if you don't subscribe already.  Unplug the cable and try out an antennae for the local channels. (You can always return it if doesn't work like expected.)  Call your cable company and see how much just internet will cost and get a good deal.  Most likely they don't want to completely lose your business so they will work with you like ATT did with me.  

4.  Show them that its not that bad.
Once you bite the bullet and cut off the cable (I'm not gonna lie, it was tad bit painful), show your family how the new cable free t.v. works.  Show them the local channels.  Find a website that gives the local listings so they have a channel guide.  Put their favorite shows in your Netflix Queue.  The more informed they are, the less painful it will be and they will realize that they are not missing out after all.

5.  Beware
My main concern with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon is the lack of parental controls.  When we had cable I had all kinds of parental controls enabled.  My kids could barely watch Disney channel without having me enter the secret code.  I have trained them to only go to Netflix Kids, and of course get my permission before viewing.  In Hulu, I've favorited the approved shows.  This part is still a work in progress.  I've instructed them never to search without my help.  There's too much craziness out there-even just in the titles.  So be careful!  Also, check out the parental controls built into your t.v.

So why did we get rid of cable?  
It wasn't a financial necessity-though we are going to save at least $1200 a year by being cable free. 
 It was a Priority Check Decision. 
The Lord laid on my heart 2 things: 
1. How the Hughes family was spending their money and
2.   How the Hughes family was spending their time.
  Many days we were spending LOTS of time watching mindless t.v. and only minutes in the Word.  Not cool.  And not the message we wanted to send to our children.  Now we turn on Pandora on our t.v. and enjoy music instead of just turning on the t.v. for background noise.  We are watching commercial free t.v. and being more selective in our shows.  And in just one week our t.v. viewing is WAY down.  Success. 
And my family doesn't even hate me. In fact, I've hardly heard any complaints. Who knew?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

How to Host a Little Girls' Tea Party for $100

We celebrated my daughter's 9th birthday with a tea party -per her request.  I honestly didn't set out to keep the budget so low-but it ended up being a very inexpensive party.  Here's how I did it:

1.  Plan and shop ahead.
I've found that I can't find deals when I'm shopping only a week or 2 ahead of time.  We decided at least 2 months ago that a tea party would be the theme.  So we were able to keep our eyes open for deals with no pressure.

For instance, every weekend we would head to Goodwill or Salvation Army to look for teacups.  I was able to collect one for each girl.  Each cup and saucer cost no more than a $1.  Salvation Army even had 50% off on Saturdays!

Because we shopped ahead and had time to browse,  we came across purple boas at A.C. Moore for $.99 each! Usually boas cost at least $5!

2.  Ditch the goodie bags.  
Let's be honest, goodie bags are usually full of junk.  I have a one day rule for goodie bags at my house.  If you come home with one and it's not emptied AND put away in one day it goes bye-bye.
So with that in mind, I spend what I would normally spend on goodie bags (around $30 for 8 kids) and bought bows for each of the girls.   A friend makes these adorable bows and she was able to customize them with a tea party theme. So much better than a bag full of candy and $1 store toys.

I also didn't buy bags.  I just used brown bags I had already and cut the tops with patterned scrapbook scissors.  Then I cut their initial with my Cricut and glued it on.

We were able to add their crafts to the bags as we completed activities.

3.  Buy premade food.
Ok, sometimes this goes against everything I believe in.  But when it comes to baked mini goodies that are characteristic of a teaparty, I found that it's cheaper to buy them.  I went to our brand new Walmart, which has an adorable bakery and spent $16 on individual mini sweets.

I also spent $10 on a big precut fruit bowl.  I originally had about $15-$20 of fresh fruit in my cart that I would have had to cut up and prep myself.  It saved me a lot of time and money to use the prepped fruit for these fruit cups.

Enlist "that person" who loves to bake to make the cake.  Our favorite baker is Aunt Nessa. She's made just about all of my kids' birthday cakes.

4.  Don't buy premade decorations.
So-buy premade food, but NOT premade decorations. All of those tablecloths and birthday banners add up.  And crepe paper is just cheesy.  The time you save baking, can be used to make decorations. For a tea party, my favorite decoration is doilies.  I spent less than $10 for doilies.  I used clear plates and set them on doilies with their names handwritten on them. 

I also cut letters with my Cricut and glued the doilies to lace for a birthday banner.

We also made the invites from doilies.

I found tissue paper on clearance for $.58 at Target about a month earlier (another advantage to planning ahead and shopping early) and made these pom-poms for table decorations.

I printed out this sign to add to the atmosphere.

My favorite decorations were the girls.  We asked them to wear their tea party dresses.  They were adorable!

5.  Plan Cheap Games and Crafts
Don't pick a game or craft that requires tons of supplies. Think about what you have on hand.
 Our first craft were God's eyes.  I already had the popsicle sticks and yarn.

We made lipgloss, which only required vaseline, a pack of kool-aid and little containers that were $.50 each from Walmart.

The games we played were the good ole' make a dress out of toilet paper. 

And "who can build the highest structure" out of sugar cubes.  Sugar cubes were only $1.50 a box.

It was such a fun time!  Who says you can't make memories on a budget?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pinned It. Made It. How Was It?

I pinned it.  (You might have to!).  I made it.  I know you're asking, "How was it?"

I made this for dinner for guests on Saturday night.

What changes I made in the recipe: It called for 6 tbsp. of hot sauce.  I read in the comments that some had swapped out for BBQ sauce.  So I went that route.  I found that I needed about 12 tbsp. of the BBQ sauce.  
What I liked:  I liked the the flavors: BBQ, potatoes, cheese, bacon.What's not to like?  We topped it with sour cream. 
What I didn't like:  The chicken was too "chunky" and a little dry. Next time I may shred the chicken or cut it in much smaller chunks.
Will I make it again (the true test!): Yes!  This is a good weeknight family meal-but not guest worthy. I will also try again with the hot sauce.

I was ambitious and made 2 desserts last night.  Mostly because I was skeptical of both so I needed a plan B!
What changes I made in the recipe:  I used egg roll wrappers instead of spring roll wrappers.  Not sure if this was the demise of the recipe!
What I liked:   I loved the nutella and bananas together.  The bananas got really sweet and yummy after being cooked.
What I didn't like:   This is one of those pins with no real recipe-only pics.  These kind are always a risk.  I opted to bake them instead of fry them-which was one of the options on the egg roll wrapper packaging.  But the wrapping was disgusting-a kind of chewy crunch.  Would frying work better? possibly but...
Will I make it again (the true test!):  No.  They were easy to make.  But I really don't think these will ever live up to the picture.  I have too many other pins to make to waste more time on this one!

What changes I made in the recipe: None.  I used the exact ingredients and methods.
What I liked:   A sugar cookie and good vanilla pudding.  The flavor was there.
What I didn't like:   The presentation was not what the pics promised.  The sugar never really carmelized.  I added more and more sugar.  I used a good quality food torch.  I would have had to torch each one for 5 min. each -possibly to get the desired look.  Way too time consuming.
Will I make it again (the true test!):  No.  This was a case of "too good to be true, then it probably is".

Though 2 out of 3 of my recipes were flops for me-I still had fun cooking them and my guests enjoyed trying them! That's the bottom line!
Happy Pinning!
{my reviews are in no way a reflection of the bloggers who posted these recipes.  These are just my opinions and experiences}

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sheltering vs. Guarding Their Hearts

This is kind of a silly question.  Because if you look them up in the dictionary, shelter and guard are synonyms.  The difference here is a matter of the heart.  
The world likes to say that Christians "shelter" their children.  There's the argument that, "You shouldn't shelter your children because when they leave your nest they will go wild". 
Is there truth to this?  
What constitutes "going wild"? 
-drinking? having children outside of marriage possibly even with different partners? divorce? no career or direction in life? financial irresponsibility? 
We all know people who were not "sheltered" and were given many freedoms, that still fit the characteristics above.  
So NOT sheltering children does not keep them from "going wild" anymore than sheltering them pushes them toward wildness.  

The real issue here is the heart.  The Bible says in Proverbs 4:23 
 "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."

My husband and I are firm believers that this is our job as parents.  
We (Christians) need to equip our children to go out into the world and since they're going "out into the world" we need to teach them how to guard their hearts.  Because the world is not kind to their hearts.

One of the hardest ways and one of the easiest ways to do this is by monitoring what our children watch in movies and on t.v.  
How important is what they watch?  
Here's a little informal study for you.  In almost 15 years of teaching, I can pick out the students in my class who are allowed to watch anything that is labeled  "kid friendly" (by the ratings, by ABC Family, by Disney channel).  Give me a month with my new students and I can tell you, with 100% accuracy, who has limits on their t.v./movie viewing and who doesn't. That's pretty bold, I know, but I stand by it.  
It's been true in every grade I've taught.  
How can I tell?  
-by their attitudes, by the way they talk to their parents, by the way they talk to each other, by the level of "girl drama", by the boy-girl relationships, by the way they handle conflict on the playground-just to name a few tell tale signs.  Their hearts are different than the children who's parents are monitoring their t.v. watching through a "guard their heart" lens.  

So, the world may say when I don't let my 14 year old watch Zero Dark Thirty, or my 8 year old watch Jessie, that I'm sheltering them.  But I KNOW that I'm teaching them how to guard their hearts.  
I've been charged by God to protect them and guide them temporarily and I take it very seriously.  
I encourage you to do the same.  We will NEVER regret guarding the hearts of our children.
Proverbs 4:23 
 "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Pancake Mini Muffins with Bacon

I saw this recipe pictured on Pinterest a while back but there was no source.  It seemed like a good idea so I decided to give it a try anyway. It was a win!

Cook the bacon.  I always cook mine in the oven on a slotted pan.  Much easier than standing over it on the stovetop.

Prepare the pancake mix according to package directions. To make 36 mini muffins I prepared enough mix for 12-14 pancakes.  I also added 1 tsp. of vanilla and 1 tsp. of cinnamon.

Spray the muffin tin well with non stick spray. Break each piece of bacon into fourths and put a piece into each of the mini muffins.

Using a small scooper or teaspoon add pancake mix to each muffin.

Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.  They barely get golden brown.  Don't worry-they are done.
I love how the bacon peeks out.  Serve with syrup and enjoy.  

Pancake Mini Muffins with Bacon
(yield 36 mini muffins)
9 slices of bacon (not thin cut)
pancake mix 
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
non stick spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a mini muffin pan well with non stick spray.
Break the bacon into fourths and put one piece into each muffin.
Prepare pancake mix according to package directions.
Add 1 tsp. of vanilla and 1 tsp. of cinnamon and mix.
Put a small scoop of pancake mix over each piece of bacon. Fill almost to the top.
Bake for 15 min. 

Muffins will not brown much-don't be alarmed! :)
Dip in syrup and enjoy!


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